Marcus Garvey’s 125th, Olympics 2012 and Jamaica 50

Thursday, August 16, 2012

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EVERYBODY knows that as a nation we are poor at long-term planning. What is less known is the reason for this abysmal lack of ability to develop a national vision and work it through to reality.

We suspect that the main reason is an intellectual laziness combined with a reluctance to wait beyond the short or near term for our labour to bear fruit. In other words, everything has to be a quick fix.

That is why we still have only one national stadium that is accommodating fewer persons than the original 35,000 capacity, because we now have to make space for international facilities that were not envisioned when the stadium was built to host the 1962 Central American and Caribbean Games.

That is why the vision of economic independence, as eventually advocated by National Hero Marcus Garvey, is still such a distant dream 125 years after his birth tomorrow.

That is why the treacherous Flat Bridge is still a central part of the most important corridor linking Jamaica’s north and south coasts since its construction in the 1700s.

That is why we are still struggling with a Parliament building constructed in 1960 and which is bursting at the seams and barely able to make the transition to a modern building that is becoming of the growing sophistication of the Jamaican people.

And yet, there is no logical reason for this national affliction. For example, we know, all of us, that the glory we are savouring from the London 2012 Olympics, and the Beijing 2008 Olympics before that, started back in 1948 with the stupendous exploits of track icons Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, Leslie Laing, and George Rhoden and carried on down through the years by the likes of Mr Donald Quarrie and Miss Merlene Ottey, among the legions.

We also have as example, the crucible of the Boys’ and Girls’ Championships in which we have honed our athletes since the first Boys’ Champs was staged in 1910.

So we know that Rome, or Kingston, was not built in a day.

If we can learn from the past, we are bound to have far more to celebrate in the next 50 years of Independence. Most of us will not be around in 2062, but we can bequeath a legacy of prosperity to our offsprings through setting the stage for long-term planning and execution.

A good place to start is the Jamaica 50 Anniversary Secretariat. Instead of scuttling it now that the Independence celebrations are over, we should regalvanise it to receive suggestions from Jamaicans as to how to monetise and maximise our success at London 2012 and the outpouring of patriotism generated by the 50th anniversary and the Olympics.

The staging of the Grand Gala and Jubilee Village, despite initial fears of a flop, was masterfully executed, and is now a thing of pride for the thousands of Jamaicans living here and overseas who passed through. It is an example of the sheer genius of the Jamaican people, and here we must heartily congratulate Culture Minister Lisa Hanna and Secretariat head Mr Robert Bryan, the team leaders, for a splendid job.

It is never easy to turn intangibles, such as patriotism and Olympic glory, into economic products. But we can start with our outstanding international product, tourism. After all, Jamaica is where Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Veronica Campbell Brown are from.

Let us all put on our black, green and gold thinking caps.




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